Though she hasn’t been seen in a major offline competition up until her strong showing at Low Tide City, Sasha “Magi” Sullivan has not been slowing down at all.
Through online tournaments, the Falco player has continued to be one of Melee’s most exciting young players. Inven Global had the chance to sit down with Magi to discuss her thoughts on Falco, the local scene, and the future of Smash’s competitive landscape.
Falco, Falco, Falco (and some Fox?)
We, unfortunately, did not see you at Riptide. There’s a lot of players that claim they benefit from offline. Do you see yourself as one of them?
I'm honestly not too sure which area I compete better in. I do think competing online is really stressful because of things like unstable connections, varying computer setups, and also just trying to keep track of all of the different weird elements of competing online like having to keep Discord open in case of any weird technical difficulties happen.
On the flip side, there are way fewer issues with travel logistics, way fewer people to distract you, way less noise, and at the end of the day, you are usually in a completely foreign place compared to the comfort of your own home.
That being said, I generally do think one of my strong points is that I'm pretty comfortable when a lot of pressure is on me, so maybe in comparison to some other players who don't do well under pressure I would "benefit" from the additional pressure of offline, but I'm not too sure. I would bet it's an insignificant amount of advantage either way.
So I wanted your perspective on this being one of the best Falco players. I think Falco is in a renaissance of sorts, where you’re seeing a lot more really good players rising. And that was not the case a few years ago.
What was interesting was Mang0 at the time stated that because Westballz was the main Falco at that time, instead of him or PPMD, that bred a generation of weaker Falcos. And when you look at it now—with Mang0 mostly playing Falco—Falco players look a lot better. Do you think there’s credibility to that idea?
I think it's only kind of true.
Right now I would say Melee is going through another phase of everyone having even more access to resources to get better, like uncle punch, more online content, more coaching, etc which makes it a lot easier for people to learn what actually is and isn't a good thing to do in-game.
Even the rise of streams has given people access to more direct ways to learn from top players and to help filter out some of those things that the "weaker generation" did. So I don't think it was really the fault of Westballz necessarily as much as it was that people had to go through a lot more to learn how to do the good things and had to rely more on just copying what they say, and sometimes that led to people copying options that weren't actually great.
Is there anything you think you’ve brought to the table that even a player like Mang0 could utilize in optimizing Falco?
I think the main thing optimization I have right now is my ledge play. I do really aggressive ledge dashes almost every time I grab ledge which makes his corner game way more threatening, though it's very arguable that Falco doesn't need to bother risking ledge dash when he has access to other ledge options that are a lot less execution heavy like double laser or side-b from ledge.
Regardless, there are a lot of situations where Falco can get a big ledge dash and shine and just react to whether or not it hit or not. And on top of that, by ledge dashing a lot you make his other ledge options even stronger because they have to respect ledge dash so much.
You’ve had a good amount of success at online events, but unfortunately, you haven’t had much success against Peach players. Why do you think that is?
I live in a region that's super heavy on spacies and Marth players but not really many floaty players (besides one of our PR players, Adust). Even with access to online I still mostly just play against Fox and Falco as my main source of practice. So a big part of it is just not really having the experience or the knowledge of how to beat her, and that goes for most of all of my weak matchups as well (Jigglypuff, Samus, Peach, etc).
It's funny that you mention that though because just this week I started putting all of my efforts into the non-spacie characters and cut Fox from my grind cold turkey. So hopefully in the future, I won't be so bad against her.
When I’ve talked with some other players that have been doing a lot online, they’ve talked about how they want to prioritize and bring forward secondaries. Has this ever been a consideration for you? For example, we’ve seen some players bring in a pocket-Jigglypuff and that can be a really effective counter to Peach. Have you ever considered something like that?
For me personally, I've always been a big proponent of solo maining. I try my best to keep a clear head that a lot of the time it's not my character's fault, it has a lot more to do with my personal ability to control the character and counter their character, so I don't really like relying on a character that is "hypothetically" stronger than my character at countering my opponent.
Plus, I also really just enjoy focusing on one character that I really like instead of splitting my time to multiple characters that I may not like as much. Though I do enjoy playing Fox as well and if I were to ever be in a spot where I had to play secondaries I would definitely play Fox for every matchup I was weak in (mostly floaties).
You stream sometimes and practice with Ginger, which I think is another interesting discussion, because in the debate of Falco as a character, Ginger’s someone that I think is on the opposite side of the spectrum from you and Mango? What specifically do you think though that he does well in could you apply to your own game?
He's immensely more precise than I am and way smarter in a lot of different situations. I have problems where I sometimes take unnecessary risks and put myself in bad positions that I have to fight out of, whereas Ginger does a much better job of always maintaining some sort of advantage almost at all times, and on top of that he's just good at knowing what's the "right" thing to do in a lot of matchups whereas I spend a lot of time kind of guessing what I'm supposed to do next. I think his combos are also a lot more consistent than mine, especially against the non-fast fallers.
What about vise versa?
I think one thing he is a little bit stubborn in is how he handles players who are really exploitable. A lot of the time he tries really hard to play "properly" against everyone, which is a good thing to strive for but that sometimes leads you to over-respecting players and putting them in spots where they can just guess right to win instead of just getting an almost guaranteed neutral win by letting them make a mistake.
That being said, I do think he's just better than me in a lot of ways so there isn't that much to learn from me!
Are there any other Falcos that you look to for inspiration?
Of course Mang0 and Ginger are the two big ones. I also really love watching Santiago, Druggedfox's Falco is super amazing and I've learned a lot from it, and I've stolen a lot of things from Yort as well.
Ginger also specifically mentioned Druggedfox. What is unique about his Falco?
Druggedfox's game knowledge is out of this world. And if you wanna talk about the precision that Ginger has, Druggedfox takes it to a whole new level of knowing exactly what to do in almost every situation and knowing how to execute it super well.
On top of that, he's insanely aware of what's happening on the screen at all times. He basically coined the phrase "looking at the screen" which essentially means being able to interpret the information on the screen and making an informed decision based on exactly what scenario you're in. Put that in combination with his precise Falco and he's just an absolute beast.
The future of the Melee scene (and Magi's place in it)
So there haven’t been any recent power rankings in Louisiana. From what you’ve observed, who do you think are the best upcoming players from Louisiana and the South in general?
Louisiana is definitely having a really nice surge of super-strong players. Just recently, one of our veteran players and a personal friend and rival of mine JSalt has been putting in hella work in the Slippi era and he's definitely starting to become even more of a force in our sets.
Rabit is another player that has been a big threat for a while and he definitely has a shot and blowing up someday and getting sick results. I mentioned him earlier but Adust is our local peach player that has ruled his fair share of the scene and sat pretty as 4th in our state a few times.
And finally, Phantom Airline is probably the next player on the list for someone who will be pretty high on our next PR.
For the south in general, I think of players like Blues Clues from Texas, Yort from Georgia (semi-retired I think not sure)... And I'm not sure if this is too close to the east coast to be considered the south but I have a lot of love for the panhandle part of north Florida with players like Sinbad, Barracca, J, and C15. I'm sure I'm forgetting a few but these are definitely a lot of players I respect a lot.
So you recently signed with Beastcoast. What was that process like? What are your impression of the organization and what are you hoping to accomplish there?
It's been a great experience so far. They contacted me pretty early on in the year and the signing process itself took a little while to sort out the logistics but it's been awesome and I really like what they represent.
And they've already done a lot for me such as the Magi shirt. The turnaround time for when I asked them if they could make a Magi shirt to it being available on the website was two days! It's been awesome and I'm hoping that I can just put in all the right effort and try to take advantage of all the opportunities they're giving me and show that I am worth investing in.
How optimistic overall are you about the future of Falco? As Fox becomes more optimized, do you think we’ll still see Falco players frequently placing near the top of majors?
Yeah, I honestly think Falco is in a pretty good spot right now. Regardless of how hard you optimize Fox, I don't think there's ever going to be a point where Falco gets phased out of the meta, I do think Falco players will be pushed to use all of Falco's options though.
Riptide seemed to be a lot younger crowd as far as placements. iBDW won, and Logan and Kodorin both made the top 8. Do you think this was an anomaly, or do you think we’ve reached a point where the younger generation will consistently place near the top of big tournaments?
Definitely wasn't an anomaly. I think all of those players, especially Kodorin, have been putting in an immense amount of effort and the quarantine era really gave a lot of the younger generation players access to the resources they need to really shine.
I suspect the trend will continue and more and more of the older generations will have to really get adjusted to how hard the new kids are practicing if they don't wanna get left behind.
Following your career for the past year or two, you’ve been someone that’s really been able to persevere a lot, and actually succeed in spite of it. So I really wanted your perspective on what you think made you succeed.
You’ve had difficulties with your personal life and just the general tribulations of the pandemic—what kept you going? For people that might be in similar situations to you, what do you think helped?
I think the way I always approach things is by trying to understand that I am just a human being at the end of the day. I'm not uniquely incapable or especially capable at doing any given thing — I am just another person that needs to learn how to do things in general.
So whether it's dealing with things in my personal life or dealing with the tribulations of the pandemic, I just try to give myself the room to understand and process the emotions that come with any of those situations and to just try to learn how to deal with them one step at a time.
I think if everyone understood that they themselves deserve the same sympathy that they give to other people, it's a lot easier to be patient with yourself and to allow yourself to fall and fail and deal with hardship which in turn does make it a lot easier to face those issues and learn to deal with similar situations as they come up.
Though I do attribute a lot of these lessons from the friends that have taught me so much about how to deal with so many different things, I'm definitely a product of a lot of great people who helped me get to this point and I wouldn't be able to deal with a lot of what I've dealt with without them.
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.